If you’ve been around for a while – on this blog, or on a previous incarnation about organizing, simplifying, etc – then you know that I am in a constant search of ways to simplify. Simplify our home, simplify my routines, simplify relationships – all of it. In many areas of our life we are extremely minimalistic. That said, I love decorating our home (to some extent. I’m no Martha Stewart 😉). I love entertaining. I love having furniture. The idea of “minimalism”, as so many people define it, isn’t appealing to me.
Enter Joshua Becker. I can’t remember how I came across his site, Becoming Minimalist. It’s been years, but he still tops my list of must-read blogs, books, etc on the subject of minimalism and simplicity. He discusses “rational minimalism”, and how that may be different for everyone. A pastor, he focuses a lot on Biblical principles of simplicity, generosity, servanthood and values like family and community. I am sometimes inspired by “famous” minimalists who have one cup, 100 items, or 33 pieces of clothing (none of which are bad, by the way). But I am always inspired by Mr. Becker.
I recently (and by recently, I mean since I last updated this blog ages ago) read two of his books. They’re relatively easy reads, but will definitely stop and make you think. They might even challenge and change your lifestyle a little.
I read these in the opposite order, but I’m going to start with an overview of the book, “Simplify”. I think this is one of the best introductions to the idea of rational minimalism. In it, Becker discusses the benefits of minimalism (or simplicity). He discusses how 100 items or a communal farm might work for some people, but not for him – and not for many of us that read about such things and quickly lose interest. He gives practical steps to jump right into a more simple lifestyle, from wherever you are beginning. He talks about stopping the trend of consumerism, including excellent ideas for gifts that don’t add clutter.
[Tweet “The attractiveness of minimalism seems so universal, perhaps this is the way life was meant to be lived. “]
Finally, he discusses simplifying all areas of your life – intentionally promoting what is important, not just what is urgent or common. And that is what he digs deep into in the next book, “Inside-Out Simplicity”.
If “Simplify” is a practical, surface-level, easy read on how to get started when you feel the tug of minimalism and simplification, “Inside-Out Simplicity” is the textbook. It can be a quick read on one hand, with Becker’s easy-to-read style, but there is so much substance that you’ll want to process it a little more slowly. And in some cases – toxic friendships, complex sexual relationships (especially those outside of the confines of marriage), etc – you might struggle a little. Hey, I’m just telling it like it is 🙂
“Simplicity is clarity, purpose and intentionality. It is marked by the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”
[Tweet “”Simplicity is the promotion of the things we most value and removal of everything else.””]
I think, like deciding to quit smoking or trying to lose weight, simplifying our entire life has to be a soul-level, internal decision. This book echoes that sentiment. Becker begins by giving some simple tips to start living in the present. Not earth shattering things – advice like “smile more”, “dream about the future but work hard today”.
[Tweet “”If you are talking about what you did yesterday, you haven’t done much today.””]
He realizes that in a world that is hectic, busy and hurried, simplicity is not. So he discusses keys to developing contentment – which is crucial for simplification and clarity. These are counter-cultural notions, like kindness and generosity, serving others.
[Tweet “”It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.””]
He makes incredibly important, valuable points about forgiveness – especially what it is and isn’t, the difference between forgiveness and trust, and how those things affect our relationships.
He gives a refreshing look at healthy marriage and parenting relationships, from the standpoint of what simplicity can do for said relationships, but also how not to let it do anything to them. And he gives, hands down, the best breakdown on why we limit toys around here (and why I’d love to do so even more).
And in a huge (but important) stray from most “simple living” books, Becker tackles, in a very practical way, sexuality and purity and how matters of the heart can be the most important pieces to finding simplicity and peace. He gives sound advice for seeking and finding God – including what he believes about Jesus (with and without regards to simplicity) – without making it a book that non-religious folks will immediately put down.
The book is wrapped up with what may be just the beginning of life change for many of us, when Becker looks at success versus significance. Which will you live for?
[Tweet “Success or significance? Which will motivate your life?”]
Check out more book reviews from 2014’s “Empty Shelf Challenge“!